An August Morning

By Jeanine Michaels

The Monday before my birthday should have been a day to celebrate with my husband.  But on this beautiful August morning, I was donning black garments to mourn a loss.  He was in his dress uniform for the sheriff’s office and was leaving just after 8 am to go honor a deputy that served with his office. The deputy’s death was senseless.  Ambushed in his patrol car as he pulled up to respond to shots fired, the deputy had only exited his vehicle before bullets riddled his body.  A hero’s death. But to his wife or children, or to the men and women who served alongside of this man, it was a senseless death.

I arrived at the church just as the deputy’s body was arriving in a hearse. Flags waved in the breeze, vibrant against the bright blue Colorado sky.  Every law enforcement officer present stood at attention. Mounted deputies tried to keep their horses from prancing in place. Men in motorcycle vests stood at the ready with flags in case protestors arrived on the scene to cause a disturbance.  In the background, you could see the firefighters and their trucks in the back of the church parking lot as officers and deputies stood at attention.  His fellow SWAT officers served as pall bearers as they took the casket into the church, awaiting the start of the ceremony when they would carry their brother to his place of honor.

Once the sheriff’s deputies were dismissed, I anxiously searched for my husband. As a wife, you want to be by their side as much as possible during a funeral like this.  You want them to know that, even though every fiber of your being is praying that you are never called upon to follow a casket into a church, you are proud to support them and this dangerous job they choose to do in service to their community.

I couldn’t find him in the crowd, so I texted him that I would meet him in the Green Room they had set up for all the deputies and personnel associated with his office. I watched this group of brave men and women deal with their emotions as they waited to be escorted into the Memorial service.  Some wept openly.  Some fidgeted with their dress uniforms uncomfortably.  Dispatchers hugged one another. Support staff sat at a table, drinking from the water bottles that were provided.  And on every table was a box of Kleenex.  I collected a few to keep in my purse, just in case the two packs I already had in there weren’t enough.  Finally, we found each other, and I hugged him tight. The last place I wanted to be was at another funeral for an officer from our Sheriff’s Office, but the only place I wanted to be was by my husband’s side. For better or for worse. Isn’t that what our vows said?

As the clock ticked nearer to the hour set for this Memorial Service, the personnel from the Sheriff’s office lined up to be escorted into the church to their reserved seats.  I grabbed my husband’s hand and we took the long walk together. Again. This was the second service we attended since he joined the Sheriff’s Office, in a span of 5 ½ years. And for some reason, this 2nd time around was hitting me especially hard. I know it’s not my job to protect my husband, but I so wished I could keep him from ever having to face this reality again. I had to fight to keep the thoughts that, “This could have been MY husband,” from running through my head.  

If you’ve never been present at a Memorial service for a fallen officer, the precision with which they carry out this kind of service is impressive.  So much of the service brings home the fact that this deputy gave his life in service to his community. He ran toward the danger, while all others ran away. He was trying to get to a woman who had been shot by her own husband and was lying on her front lawn.  And after killing the deputy that came to try and offer aid, he barricaded himself in his home where the coward took his own life.

When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, an entire “blue” family shows up to pay their respects.  The blue rose ceremony is part of a funeral like this, where departments and offices send a representative to place a blue rose in a vase near the coffin.  In this case, there were two vases, and police officers came from both sides of the sanctuary, waiting their turn to pay their respects.  And after placing their rose in the vase, each officer approached the coffin and saluted as he or she walked by.  We sat and marveled at how far each one had come to be a part of the service.  Every state in the union seemed to be represented, including Alaska! As each rose found its place among the blue rose family, I found my focus shifting from those who want to hurt or disrespect law enforcement to those who revere and honor them. End of Watch was played over the PA system.  The 21-gun salute, the playing of TAPS, and of course, the ever-present bag pipes playing “Amazing Grace” become familiar and comforting in a strange sort of way.

After crying my eyes out for several hours, I breathed a sigh of relief as the Memorial service came to a close, and the deputy’s casket was carried to the hearse for the processional, which my husband would be a part of. 

“I want you to come with me,” he stated.  There was only one answer I could give him.  Today, he got whatever he needed.  So, I climbed into the back of a police car (a place I have never been, by the way) and he and his partner climbed into the front.  We sat for a very long time as we waited for the family to line up in their vehicles behind the hearse. I was behind a piece of plexiglass, trying to find a place where the AC could make its way into the back seat. The back of a police car is not designed for comfort, let me assure you.  But once we took our place in the processional and we started the drive, none of that mattered.  If I thought I had cried a river at the service, the processional was twice as emotional. 

There, on the streets of Colorado Springs, were an army of supporters showing that they not only supported the police, but understood the sacrifice made by our fallen deputy.  People lined the streets of the route we took with American flags, Thin Blue Line flags, and signs in support of this noble profession.  On the overpasses of the freeway, the fire department was standing at attention on their trucks with giant American flags hanging over the freeways.  The Colorado State Patrol had changed the signs on the highway to read, “Rest in Peace, Deputy.  We have the watch. Thank you for your sacrifice.”  People on the north side of the freeway, who were not caught in the traffic jam that ensued on the southbound side, pulled over anyway.  They got their children out of their cars to stand at attention and watch as the processional, nearly 8 miles long, passed by.  A local tire company closed their stores, had their employees standing in front of their trucks at attention holding American flags.  They lost business to show their support! An airman near the Air Force Academy stood at the side of the freeway saluting.  Each new show of support brought more emotion.  Mile after mile, people did whatever they could to show our men and women in law enforcement that they were not alone.

At the end of the processional, as we returned to my vehicle near the church, my husband said, “I just knew you had to see this for yourself. I knew that you needed the reminder that there are more people in this community supporting law enforcement than opposing us.” And he was right!  My faith in humanity was restored. As I shifted my focus from this monster who gunned down our deputy in cold blood to the thousands of everyday citizens who took time out of their day to hold up an encouraging sign or a flag, I realized that God wanted me to focus on the truth of the situation and not the negative perception of the media, social or otherwise. 

And especially to those parents who got their young children out of their vehicles to stand on a busy highway, thank you for teaching the next generation to honor and respect law enforcement.  The next time you have an opportunity to support the police in your community, please take it!  Teach your children and grandchildren what an honorable profession this is. Because every single day, someone out there loses a husband, wife, daughter, son or a mom or dad because they swore to protect the rest of us. It doesn’t get more noble than that.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

John 15:13 NKJV


© 2022 SheBelieves Co. | |

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: